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A Great Georgia Escape

Original article by Jean Couser for Sarasota Golfers Guide.

The directions to Cabin Bluff, an exclusive retreat in southwest Georgia read: Thirty minutes north of Jacksonville, off 1-95. Exit 7 GA Follow Harriet's Bluff Road east for 9.3 miles. You’ll see a green gate on your right.

I drive right past it looking for a grand entrance. No grand entrance it seems. I backtrack and see a small sign and the green gate tucked alongside the road, not unlike one that leads to any ordinary ranch or farm. There’s a call box. I press in the code and the gate swings open and drive in.

It is then I realize there is a grand entrance, in the form of a 2-mile drive snaking between towering Georgia pines and palmetto scrub as far as the eye can see. It causes me to slow down, look around. A red-tail hawk soars overhead.

I breathe in the smell of the pines and the salt marsh and with every exhale feel the stress and the chaos of the city pouring out.

The road opens up to reveal a circular gravel drive with low slung cabins, hundred year-old oaks and the beautiful Cumberland River beyond.

A gentleman dressed from head-to-toe in khaki is there to greet me. His Georgia accent as sweet and slow as the sorghum syrup served for breakfast with their homemade pancakes and biscuits. I follow him in his golf cart to the accommodations, which consist of a main lodge and seven beautifully appointed guest cabins that provide 20 private rooms with private baths, and accommodate up to 40 guests on the property at one time. I’m one of the lucky 40.

Cabin Bluff was established in 1928 by automobile pioneer Howard Coffin. This insulated retreat has hosted presidents, governors and captains of industry, plus distinguished sporting enthusiast from around the world. They’ve all journeyed behind the green gate to enjoy world-class hunting, fishing and golf. Up until now, only those wealthy invitees enjoyed the property, but in recent years, it has opened its doors.

The rustic feel of Cabin Bluff is mixed with a sophisticated elegance and a whisper of history found around every corner. Black and white photographs chronicle hunters throughout the years, posing with their trophies. Mounted fish and game decorate the yellow pine walls and hang over the fieldstone fireplaces. Perhaps the most unusual sight is the 14-foot preserved alligator hanging from the rafters of the lodge. The story is that it was shot by a man on his honeymoon in 1930.

The property houses several other buildings including the pool house, a small pub overlooking a large lap pool, deck and Jacuzzi with spectacular views of Cumberland Island.

A cozy casual room off the main lodge is where bountiful breakfasts and lunches are served at large farm-style tables. Supper is in The Coolidge Tavern with linen service and fine china. Upstairs in the Tavern is a game room with pool tables, games and darts. Outside the door a bocce ball court to relax after the day is done.

All of the food is fresh local fare. Country breakfasts, fabulous fried chicken mid-day, and late meals that feature distinctly Southern dishes from the local waters and woodlands, such as perfectly seasoned shrimp, tender wild boar chops, cheese grits and fresh green beans.

If you have wanted to mix business with pleasure, Cabin Bluff also sports a 1,700-square-foot, state-of-the-art conference room that seats about 40 people. Modern amenities such as Wi-Fi and satellite TV are available in every cabin.

Outside these buildings at Cabin Bluff, the mix of entertainment opportunities will keep you engaged all day --- hunting, sporting clays, fishing, tennis, hiking, bicycling, and of course, golf.

Hunting: The hunting season begins in October. You can hunt for covey after covey of quail flushed from over 1,500 acres, plus, there is a large roaming deer population, wild turkey and even wild boar. Experienced guides with remarkable hunting dogs are available for the trip.

The dogs and the method of training are what make this retreat world-class for hunters. Pointers are trained to be Steady to Wing and Shot, and retrievers are taught to flush and retrieve after the birds are shot. The pointers will stand on point for hours and the energetic retrievers will delight and entertain guests by retrieving not only birds but everyday object such as water bottles from a cooler by following hand signals.

Sporting clays: A 13 station sporting clay course designed to mimic natural hunting conditions winds throughout the deep forest. Sporting clays fly away from you, towards you and run along the ground. Sometimes multiples fly in all directions. It’s a perfect course for competitions, and even has its own scorecard.

If you’ve never fired a shotgun or had the thrill of yelling “PULL!” and want to give it a try, this is the place to do it. Enthusiastic instructors teach everything from safety first to stance and timing and confidence to both novice and experienced hunters.

Fishing: Along the Cumberland River, fishing guides steer boat filled with fishermen who wish to test their skills against redfish, bluefish, sea trout, tarpon and an almost endless list of other native fish. Expertly guided charter fishing trips can be arranged along inshore and offshore waters. All tackle is furnished. You are free to "catch and release" or keep your catch. As with the game the hunters catch, the staff at Cabin Bluff will clean and pack your fish for you to enjoy at home or prepare it for your breakfast.

If you just want a day of lounging and exploring, your guide can traverse the inlets and estuaries that meander just off the shores or drop you off at nearby Cumberland Island, to photograph the wild horses or visit the grand old mansion that was once the winter home of the Carnegie family.

Golf: The course is unusual in more ways than one. There are no tee times. Grab a cart jump on the tee box and start playing. With only 40 people on property, there’s never a wait.

This course is one of the very few courses of its kind. Designed by PGA Tour professional Davis Love III, the 18-hole layout is what golf industry leaders have been talking about as one of the main ways to promote more play, by offering golfers the option of a quicker round.

It is a six hole layout that expands to an 18-hole course by being played three distinct ways. Six  complex greens, with three color-coded flags. Each match up with three sets of tees to create a variety of different holes.

Well-placed bunkers and strategic water hazards blend with meandering, waterfront fairways to create a challenging, yet highly enjoyable golf experience. From technically designed par 3s to long, winding par 5s, this unique course will impress even the most avid golfer.

Cabin Bluff is a perfect place for small family reunions, bachelor parties, corporate retreats, “man-cations” or a couple’s getaway.

It’s a place to relax, cast a rod, blast a shotgun, drive and putt, wine and dine, bicycle through forests, or just relax by the water, rock on the front porch, or read a book by the fireplace. Packages are all-inclusive.

For more information, visit: www.cabinbluff.com or call Andy at 912-522-4075.

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